Employers Increasingly Turn to Health IT To Improve Workers’ Health

June 9, 2015 in News

Employers are increasingly turning to health IT and mobile health as a way to boost employee wellness and avoid high medical costs, namely those associated with diabetes, Bloomberg Business reports.

Background

The number of U.S. residents with diabetes nearly doubled between 1998 and 2011, reaching about 21 million. In addition, 86 million U.S. residents ages 20 and older are thought to be prediabetic.

The cost of medical care and lost productivity from diabetes was about $245 billion in 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Increased Adoption of Employee Wellness Services

Diabetes prevention and wellness management services have been adopted by many large companies.

For example, Costco, Iron Mountain, Kaiser Permanente and Lowe’s use Omada’s Prevent, a diabetes prevention program that costs companies about $40 to $60 per pound lost. Prevent relies on wireless scales, pedometers, and food and exercise diaries to motivate users to be active and lose weight. Omada collects the data and then uses them to assess when a health coach needs to intervene.

Omada currently has about 10,000 users, but predicts that number will reach 100,000 by the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, Aetna offers Newtopia’s prevention services to its employees. Newtopia tests users for three weight-related genes and uses the findings to tailor weight-management efforts. The program also offers surveys to gain personality information, which is used to match users with health coaches.

Newtopia costs businesses an average of $500 per active participant for the first year and $300 for the second year. However, the company offers a money-back guarantee for users that do not see results.

Greg Steinberg, head of clinical innovation at Aetna, said the company recouped what it paid for the program in one year because of lower medical costs.

Newtopia has about 4,000 users, but expects that number could increase fourfold by the end of 2016 (Kharif/Chen, Bloomberg Business, 6/4).

Group Developing ‘Artificial Pancreas’

In related news, a group of stakeholders has come together to develop an “artificial pancreas” that could monitor diabetic patients’ blood sugar and deliver insulin as necessary, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The group, called Bigfoot Biomedical, hopes to have the device on the market by 2018.

A prototype of the device connects a blood sugar monitor to a smartphone program that can wirelessly direct an insulin pump, according to the Journal (Knutson, Wall Street Journal, 6/8).

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